Gurugram Lightning Strike: Dos and Don'ts During A Thunderstorm

Deaths due to lightning strikes are common in India. Here is what you can do to stay safe during a thunderstorm.

One person died and three were injured on Friday in Gurugram after the tree they were standing under was struck by lightning. The horrific incident was caught on a CCTV camera.

The victims, identified as Ramprasad, Shivdutt, Lali and Anil Kumar, worked as gardeners in a gated community in Gurugram. The four were rushed to Medeor hospital in Manesar where Ramprasad succumbed to his injuries. The other three are in stable condition and undergoing treatment.

Lightning Strikes And India

Though shocking, deaths due to lightning strikes are common in India. According to an IndiaSpend report, 2,360 Indians have died each year on on average since 2001 due to lightning strikes.

In May 2018, 80 people died and a further 136 were injured across five states due to lightning strikes. 83 deaths due to lighting strikes were reported on a single day in Bihar on June 25, 2020.

Lightning strikes have been the largest cause for deaths due to natural causes in India since 2002 with over 40,000 deaths since 2001. Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Odisha and Jharkhand have reported the most number of deaths due to lightning strikes.

The South West Monsoon Lightning Report 2019 identified three primary causes of lightning deaths. 71% of deaths occured when people were standing under a tree. 25% of deaths were due to direct hits whereas 4% were due to indirect hits where lightning strikes a structure leading to the deaths of those inside.

When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors

The first thing to do before or during a thunderstorm is to find shelter indoors. Use the 30/30 lightning safety rule to figure out how close the thunderstorm is. Count the seconds between a lightning flash and the roar of a thunder. If it is less than 30 seconds, then the storm is within a 10km radius. If thunder follows immediately after lightning, head indoors.

However, if going indoors is not an option, take the following precautions

  1. Avoid standing under trees as they are natural lightning rods and attract electricity.
  2. If you are hiking on a hill, try to get to a lower height as quickly as possible.
  3. If you are in a wooded area, avoid standing near trees and adopt the lightning safety position. Squat as low as possible and lower your head. Cover your ears with hands or any other covering and make sure to close your eyes to avoid flash blindness.
  4. If you are in a group, spread out as far as possible to avoid electric current passing from person to person.
  5. Though water bodies do not attract lightning, stay away from them as they are excellent conductors of electricity.
  6. Avoid hilltops and open fields.
  7. Do not take shelter in sheds or tents in open areas.
  8. If you are in a vehicle with a roof, staying inside the car is safer than leaving it. Avoid touching the metallic surfaces of the vehicle. You may still be injured if the lightning strikes near the vehicle.

If indoors

  1. Stay away from doors, windows, porches, balconies, sheds and open garages.
  2. Do not lie down or lean against concrete surfaces.
  3. If you have an advance warning of a thunderstorm, unplug all electrical appliances. Do not use landline phones or any electrical appliance during a thunderstorm.
  4. Do not use your mobile phones or tablet PCs while they are being charged.
  5. Avoid using taps and pipes as they can conduct electricity.

What To Do When Someone Is Struck By Lightning

Seek medical help if someone has been struck by lightning and provide first aid assistance if you can. If multiple people have been struck, tend to those who are unconscious first.

If you cannot detect a pulse or if the person has stopped breathing, administer mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and CPR. Check for burns and broken bones and treat them accordingly. Check for signs of temparory hearing loss and flash blindness.

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